Escape From Pretoria doesn’t show us the rest of the journey the men had to take to be truly free, which included traveling through Zambia to get to Tanzania and then to London. However, the ingenuity required to escape from the prison is a large part of what freed these men as political prisoners and allowed them to continue their fight against apartheid once free. Stephen Lee and Timothy Jenkin were pardoned in 1991 but were considered fugitives up until that point. Leonard Fontaine wasn’t a real prisoner, but an amalgamation of several prisoners that Lee and Jenkin knew. The real-life Goldberg got released from prison much earlier than he expected.
Daniel Radcliffe gives an understated yet brilliant performance as Jenkin. Daniel Webber is excellent as Lee, but I honestly enjoyed Mark Leonard Winter as Leonard Fontaine the best. He conveyed the rage and helplessness of being a prisoner perfectly. The production design, courtesy of Scott Bird, is excellent. Visually the whole film gives the audience the feeling of being confined and the emotional residuals that come with it. Francis Annan really did a great job with his debut feature film, and I’m excited to see what else he has up his sleeve for future projects.
“Visually the whole film gives the audience the feeling of being confined…”
Although Escape From Pretoria is based on a true story, it wasn’t one that I knew, and I imagine a lot of other Americans might not know about it either. I was amazed by the wherewithal these men had to escape a horrible circumstance. It also resonates with a lot of the turmoil that people are suffering the world over today due to corrupt political regimes.
I highly recommend this film to everyone but especially those who love biopics and prison thrillers. I think it’s important for people to learn this piece of history, and I’m glad that Francis Annan brought his interpretation of these events to an audience that might not be familiar with them.
"…it's important for people to learn this piece of history..."